All Research Highlights

UNM scientists awarded $7.5 million for laser research

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Sheik-Bahae & Mafi to investigate radiation balanced lasers

A team of researchers led by scientists at The University of New Mexico have been awarded a $7.5 million grant to expand on existing laser projects already underway at the University.

Mansoor Sheik-Bahae, from the Department of Physics & Astronomy, and Arash Mafi, from the Department of Physics & Astronomy and UNM’s Center for High Technology Materials, along with collaborators from other renowned institutions, were awarded the grant as part of the Department of Defense’s ‘Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program,’ or MURI.

We’re very excited about this award,” said Sheik-Bahae, who is also the project’s principal investigator. “This funding provides a chance for us to expand on already existing research efforts and provides an opportunity for more students to work on research science.”

“These types of interdisciplinary projects are very beneficial for the University and our students,” added Mafi. “It exposes them to science they may not otherwise get to work on and gives faculty the chance to collaborate.”

Scientists inch closer to predicting phreatic volcanic eruptions

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Poás volcano in Costa Rica one of most chemically extreme environments on Earth

Tobias Fischer at Poás Volcano

Throughout the centuries, volcanic eruptions have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives due in part to the lack of accurate signs indicating imminent eruptions. One type of a volcanic eruption, a phreatic eruption, which involves external water, is particularly energetic causing a disproportionate number of fatalities. Phreatic eruptions are extremely difficult to forecast, often occurring with little or no geophysical precursors.

Recently, researchers at the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), led by Maarten de Moor from the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica, Universidad Nacional, Heredia, Costa Rica, (and postdoc at UNM) along with University of New Mexico Professor Tobias Fischer, Department of Planetary Sciences and chair of the Deep Earth Carbon Degassing initiative, measured gas emissions from crater lake at Poás volcano in Costa Rica, in an attempt to determine some of the precursors to major volcanic eruptions.

An afternoon walk and a mammoth find

Friday, 4 March 2016

Mammoth may be New Mexico's second Clovis kill site

It began with a man walking along a shallow wash near Abiquiu, New Mexico one afternoon and noticing some flakes of what looked like bone. He happened to be walking near the property line, maybe on his neighbor’s property. So he went to visit his neighbor, to tell him about the find.

His neighbor, Tim Rowe, happened to be a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Texas in Austin and knew something about old bones. Together they walked to the shallow wash to take a closer look. They found some very big ribs near the edge of the wash and teeth that clearly came from some elephant-like creature. But the only time elephant-like creatures ever roamed New Mexico was about 13,000 years ago when mammoths grazed the plains of eastern New Mexico. No one has ever found a mammoth in the high country.

El Niño winter is here; above average precipitation expected

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

For months now, weather forecasters have been talking about a Godzilla El Niño. Even though most New Mexicans have enjoyed a fairly mild fall, make no mistake, an El Niño winter is here. The question now becomes, how much moisture will it generate over the course of the winter months? 

By definition El Nino is a patch of anomalously warmer than normal water right along the equator in the Pacific that typically extends from the South America coast often eastward to the international dateline. The current El Niño is even more expansive than that. It’s warm all the way across to well west of the dateline. The warm phase of this kind of ocean anomaly is called El Niño.

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UNM researchers uncover multiple adaptations to temperature in birds and mammals

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Study finds multiple avenues birds, mammals adapt to temperature

Understanding the different ways organisms can adapt to environmental temperatures is central to understanding how they will respond to climate change.

In a study released yesterday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), scientists at the University of New Mexico use biophysical models of thermoregulation in order to reveal multiple ways birds and mammals adapt to a wide range of temperatures.

The Scholander-Irving model illustrates how warm-blooded birds and mammals maintain body temperature by balancing the rate of metabolic heat production with the rate of heat lost to the environment.

Body size has been shown to affect both rates and, as a result, influences an organism’s thermal limits – big species are generally able to deal with colder temperatures than smaller species and vice versa. This has been used to explain Bergmann’s rule, the geographic pattern of increasing size with decreasing temperature that is seen in some groups of animals. However, after looking at the distribution of body sizes across temperatures on Earth, the scientists saw that birds and mammals of nearly every size live basically everywhere.

Brinker, Crown to receive 2015 Presidential Award of Distinction

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Recipients recognized for thoughts and actions advancing the highest ideals of New Mexico citizens

From cancer to coffee, the recipients of the 2015 Presidential Award of Distinction have portfolios of research accomplishments that separate the scientists from many others in their fields.Both Patricia Crown and C. Jeffrey Brinker, have dedicated their lives to studying culture and health in anthropology and engineering, respectively.

UNM President Robert Frank will honor and recognize Brinker and Crown with the 2015 Presidential Award of Distinction at the Dec. 11 fall commencement ceremony at WisePies Arena aka The Pit. Brinker and Crown are the fifth and sixth awardees of the Presidential Award of Distinction, established by Frank in 2013.

Frank established the honor to recognize outstanding career achievement, scholarly excellence, leadership in a profession, noteworthy public service or humanitarian endeavor. It is commemorated with a bronze medallion displaying the UNM Presidential Seal on one side and a howling lobo on the other.

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NASA, AFRL, UNM collaborate on spectrum research for better communications

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Project explores complications of nature on specific bandwidths

A rainstorm passing through Albuquerque can frizz your home television satellite signal, and degrade signals relaying data from space or across long distances at the radio frequencies we all use now. But what happens when you use frequencies much farther up the spectrum?

There is a new effort underway to understand some of the problems weather turbulence can cause at those higher frequencies.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of New Mexico are working together on a project that explore climate impact on unused radio frequencies in the 70 to 80 gigahertz range.

The first step is to understand the effects of atmospheric turbulence near ground level. So NASA sent a team of experts from the Glenn Research Center in Ohio to install a transmitter on Sandia Crest. That transmitter has begun transmitting a continuous beam to receivers atop a building near the Albuquerque Sunport.

Mutational ‘Hot Spot’ leads to adaptation in high-altitude birds

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Researchers pinpoint genetic change

Breathing rarified air high in the Andes at an average altitude of 13,000 feet presents certain unique challenges for any living organism. But for small birds such as wrens, it presented an opportunity to adapt to the challenges of the altitude and environment. 

Scientists at the University of New Mexico and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) have pinpointed a genetic change at a single, mutation-prone site that ultimately allows wrens to breathe easy in the rarefied air of the Andes. This suggests that sites in the genome that mutate quickly are more likely to contribute to adaptation.

These findings resulted from the Master’s Thesis of former UNM Biology student, Spencer Galen, and were published Oct. 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in a paper titled, Contribution of a mutational hot spot to hemoglobin adaptation in high-altitude Andean house wrens.

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UNM student developing new technique to predict stream flow

Friday, 16 October 2015

A University of New Mexico Ph.D. student is perfecting a new way to forecast stream flow levels with tremendous accuracy.

Mike Wallace is currently working on a Ph.D. in nanoscience and microsystems under UNM Professor Emeritus Harjit Ahluwalia. A hydrologist by trade, Wallace said he began focusing his research to stream flows in New Mexico about three years ago, stumbling upon an interesting connection between stream flow levels in the Rio Grande and a recurring temperature pattern in the Pacific Ocean, called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).

“The flow record of the Rio Grande at the Otowi Gauge has always been of primary interest to many members of the regional wide water resources community. This gauge is near Otowi Bridge between Los Alamos and Santa Fe and has measured stream flow for over 100 years,” explained Wallace. “An equivalent 100 plus-year record for the PDO has also been independently developed. From my growing familiarity with the stochastic patterns of both, I could see, as a few before me had also recognized, that these two natural historical records looked remarkably similar to each other.”

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